Food festival dishes out fresh northern fare

Now in its fourth year, the Yukon Culinary Festival will be highlighting the North’s gastronomy from Aug. 19 to 21 at venues in and around Whitehorse.

Attention foodies: prepare your forks.

Now in its fourth year, the Yukon Culinary Festival will be highlighting the North’s gastronomy from Aug. 19 to 21 at venues in and around Whitehorse.

This year’s festival includes a seafood feast pairing northern ingredients with east coast flare, a dinner honouring the historic menu that was served on the S.S. Klondike, and an opulent meal on the water.

Seven chefs will be involved with various parts of meals over the weekend. Most of the people doing the cooking will be recognizable to anyone who has eaten around the North.

“Historically (the festival) has always been about inviting all these guest chefs in from out of town to come up to the Yukon and experience the Yukon and tell that story,” said Vancouver chef Eric Pateman, who is helping to organize the event.

“That was amazing but I think what was missing was the Yukon coming together around this common theme.

“This is the first year it’s really about the chefs of the Yukon who are owning this and who are getting excited about it.”

Chefs Carson Schiffkorn and Troy King from Marsh Lake’s Inn on the Lake and Miche Genest of Whitehorse’s Boreal Gourmet will be working on dishes. So will the team from Whitehorse’s Wayfarer Oyster House and Chef Jonah Tredger from the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel. Chef Marco Desmond from Skagway’s Starfire restaurant is also making the trip to Whitehorse to cook.

“Most of them are coming to hang out. It’s kind of like a kitchen party,” Pateman said.

The festival is also being marketed to foodies from Outside. Ten flight packages out of Vancouver are being sold. They include festival passes and hotel stays.

It’s a chance to show off what the Yukon has to offer and capitalize on the growing food tourism trend, said Blake Rogers, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon.

“The Yukon is such an unexplored region in a number of ways. It’s kind of a mysterious, exotic place for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t understand that we have a really … growing food scene here.”

On the first night of the festival the chefs will be teaming up inside the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre to create a seafood feast that pairs northern and east coast ingredients.

Butter-poached east coast lobster will be served alongside Arctic char from the Whitehorse-based Icy Waters company.

There will be oysters and Alaskan prawns as well as fire-roasted salmon cooked over the cultural centre’s fire pit.

The tomato salad is coming from Yukon’s Drury Farm and the roasted carrot and greens salad is coming from Elemental Farms.

Of course it wouldn’t be a true east coast meal if it wasn’t also a bit of a party. Live music will be provided by the East Coast Cultural Society.

“When you go back east it’s all about the fiddlers, the music, the drinking, we’re having some fun. It’s bringing that sort of east coast Friday night party mentality,” Pateman said.

“Not that the Yukon needs an excuse to party. They’re very good at it themselves.”

Saturday’s meal is being served on the grounds of the historical sternwheeler, the S.S Klondike, in a nod to the territory’s riverboat past.

Organizers were given a copy of a menu that would have been served on the ship as it travelled the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City during the first half of the twentieth century.

Schiffkorn went to work planning a way for the chefs to update the menu and serve it again.

What he’s come up with is a slightly more refined, more Health Canada-approved menu, Pateman said.

“Obviously wild game would have been featured historically because there was no health code requirement that you could or could not serve wild game,” he said.

“We’ve had to, obviously, use a farmed elk and some other game meats that are federally inspected.”

The Marsh Lake whitefish that diners ate hundreds of years ago is now being stuffed with confit tomatoes.

The boiled brisket of Pelly River beef used to come with tantalus sauce. Now the sauce is being served with coal fire seared hanger steak. The roasted loin of Stewart River moose has been updated to a Yukon elk roast.

The festival is also slated to include a five-course “Yukon Opulence” dinner at the Inn on the Lake on Sunday.

That menu includes sous vide birch bark king salmon, elk sirloin pastrami and bison tenderloin.

“It’s kind of a surprise to a lot of people when they think about the Yukon in terms of what it can offer from a culinary point of view,” Rogers said.

“A lot of people from outside the Yukon, even some people from the Yukon, don’t really realize … that we have such great culinary talent here.”

For more information on the festival or to buy tickets for the individual meals visit: www.yukonculinary.ca

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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